Nebraska Football: Can the Cornhuskers Only Sparkle in the Spotlight?

Brandon Cavanaugh@ IMay 19, 2016

Eric Francis/Getty Images

Something doesn’t add up.

When the Nebraska Cornhuskers took the field in Seattle, freshman sensation Taylor Martinez was out to prove that he could be a leader on the road. Not just for Nebraska’s fans, his coaches or teammates, but also for himself.

After 289 total yards and three touchdowns, Martinez silenced any critics as the Cornhuskers offense dominated and the Blackshirts clamped down on Jake Locker, resulting in a 56-21 victory.

The next week, Nebraska returned home to face “lowly” South Dakota State. Fans across the country saw this as nothing more than a stat-padding game, but the Jackrabbits came to play.

Seen only by a pay-per-view audience, the Cornhuskers defense played well, holding South Dakota State to three points. The vaunted Nebraska offense that lit up Washington didn’t make the return trip to Lincoln, as the Cornhuskers only put 17 points on the scoreboard.

Maybe the trip to Seattle was a fluke and Nebraska was truly overrated. A nationally televised road game versus a team with another Heisman candidate in Kansas State confounded not only the Wildcats, but viewers as well.

“T-Magic” left defenders in the dust, Nebraska pummeled the Wildcats 48-13, and Cornhusker fans were utterly puzzled.

The rest is history.

Nebraska had a severe case of the dropsies and lost to Texas, yet again. Martinez and company lit up the sky with a shootout in Stillwater, producing 51 points with no rushing touchdowns. The Cornhuskers then plunked a Missouri squad that had defeated BCS No. 1 Oklahoma the week prior.

After consecutive weeks of narrow escapes versus Iowa State and Kansas, respectively, one has to wonder: Is the spotlight truly Nebraska’s best friend?

The good news for the Cornhuskers is that there will be no more pay-per-view audiences. This weekend, Nebraska faces the Texas A&M Aggies in prime time.

The Aggies have the opportunity to defeat the Cornhuskers in their final Big 12 tilt and potentially knock them from the conference’s championship game.

Barring the Texas game, in which the Longhorns apparently re-labeled “Sooner Magic” as “Luck of the Longhorns,” these Cornhuskers have thrived under pressure. The X-factor for the remainder of Nebraska’s schedule is Taylor Martinez’s injury.

Martinez was tentative during the first half against the Jayhawks, but took far more liberties on the run in the second. This bodes well for a Nebraska team that saw him on the field for only one play the week prior versus Iowa State.

The second positive besides Martinez’s apparent recovery is the return of Alfonzo Dennard. Thanks to Dennard and Nebraska’s stifling secondary, Kansas managed only 15 yards passing. The Blackshirts would only allow 87 yards on 47 plays (1.9 YPP).

Should Nebraska win out, the Cornhuskers will face four more opponents, including the Big 12 South champion.

If Nebraska is going to end the season 11-1 and claim the last conference championship, they’ll need to embrace the spotlight once more and let the pressure again turn them into diamonds.

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